Airtel Surges With 800,000 New Subscribers as Safaricom Faces Market Share Erosion

In a surprising turn of events in Kenya’s telecom sector, Airtel has emerged as a formidable competitor, gaining significant ground at the expense of Safaricom and Telkom. The latest statistics from the Communications Authority of Kenya’s first-quarter report for the financial year 2023/24 reveal a dynamic shift in market dynamics. Despite Safaricom’s addition of 200,000 subscribers, the telco experienced a 0.4% drop in overall market share, contrasting sharply with Airtel’s remarkable growth of 800,000 new subscribers.

Airtel’s surge is attributed to strategic investments in network infrastructure across the country. The report indicates growth in both mobile broadband subscriptions and overall market share for Airtel during the three months to September 2023. The company’s market share increased from 27.2% to 28.2%, solidifying its position as a major player in the Kenyan telecom landscape with a total of 18,932,398 customers.

Despite Safaricom’s continued dominance with a 65.7% market share, the company experienced a marginal decline from 66.1% in the previous quarter. This decline raises questions about Safaricom’s ability to maintain its stronghold amid increasing competition. The addition of 200,000 subscribers was overshadowed by Airtel’s substantial growth, signaling a potential shift in consumer preferences.

Telekom Kenya and Equity’s Finserve (Equitel) also faced challenges during this period, losing market share to Airtel. Telekom Kenya’s share dropped from 3.8% to 3.1%, while Equitel’s market share decreased from 2.3% to 2.2%. These declines underscore the intense competition and changing dynamics within the telecom industry.

In the broadband category, Safaricom still leads with a commanding 61.9% market share, although slightly reduced from the previous quarter. Airtel secured the second position with 32.7%, reflecting a notable rise from 30% in the last quarter. Telkom Kenya, Equitel, and Jamii Telekom follow with 2.5%, 1.6%, and 1.3%, respectively. This category remains a key battleground for telecom supremacy.

Mobile money subscriptions reached 38.1 million, achieving a penetration rate of 75.2%, a modest increase from the previous quarter. The total local mobile voice traffic rose by 4.0% to 22.2 billion minutes, indicating a continued reliance on mobile services. Airtel Networks led in average on-net minutes, while Jamii Telecommunications Ltd recorded the highest off-net minutes/call.

The report suggests that Kenya’s ICT sector is on an upward trajectory, fueled by advancements in mobile connectivity and infrastructure availability. As the festive season approaches, a further increase in communication and data usage is anticipated. However, Safaricom faces the challenge of retaining its market dominance in the face of Airtel’s rapid expansion.

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